Auto Rental: Trickier Than
Doping Out Airline Fees
By Bob & Sandy Nesoff
With gas pricing going up, seemingly by the minute as warm travel weather approaches, vacationers are more frequently opting to fly and then drive at their destination. That, obviously, requires renting a car.
Most of the auto rental agencies operate above board even though their fees are often exorbitant. There are, however, one or two who like to snooker you into initialing the little boxes that add considerably to your rental cost.
Some time ago a young lady we know had to rent a car for a two week period while her car was in the repair chop after an accident. The cost was to have been covered by the insurance agency and she was flabbergasted when, upon returning the car, she was hit with almost $400 in over charges.
The same can and will happen to the unwary traveler.
Initialing those tiny boxes that the rental agent keeps pointing to can add up to the cost of a first class airline ticket. The savvy traveler knows that most of the insurance can and will be picked up by your own auto insurance company. They don’t tell you that.
When you pick up the car look it over very carefully because they have done so. If there are any dents, scratches, dings or anything else, insist they note that on the rental form or you may as well have bought the car for what they’ll charge. Do the same when returning the vehicle.
A common scam with virtually every auto rental company is the per gallon fee for filling the car tank when you return it. That is normally several dollars per more than the average off-airport gas station. Make sure the tank is full when you pick up the car and if it’s not, insist they note that fact. It’s easy enough top pull into a service station on the return to the airport and fill the tank. That could mean a savings of $30-$50.
Most airline connected credit cards have a package deal whereby you purchase your ticket and also get a hotel and rental car at the same time. That’s terrific for the credit card company, the airline, car agency and hotel because they split profits.
It’s no secret that if you are under 25 it may be almost impossible to rent a car. Insurance rates for that age group are higher and the rental companies just don’t like younger people.
Some agencies discourage use of a debit card while others seem to encourage them. Aside from the benefit of accruing miles on the airlines of your choice when renting a car with a credit card, you are freed up from the requirement to post a security deposit for the vehicle.
A credit card gives an indication that you are responsible and have a decent credit rating. A debit card is simply a check against whatever amount you may have in your bank account. The agencies are aware that while there may be sufficient funds at the point of rental, that may have been depleted before return. That could leave the company in the hole for a lot of money.
Some agencies actually forbid renting a vehicle to anyone under 25 who is using a debit card. One or two agencies interestingly have begun pushing customers to use debit cards. They’ve eliminated credit checks; reduce the need for proof of return travel and ID. Under this policy rentals booked more than a day in advance will only need a debit card and driver’s license. They may reduce the “hold” amount designed to insure sufficient funds.
In many instances local auto rental agencies that have no connection to the major outlets offer a far better financial deal. They may not have the bid Caddy SUVs, but the cars are usually clean, new and in good shape.
The small, local agencies may not have a desk in the airport, but there is always a shuttle bus that will take you there in minutes and with no real loss of convenience.
The word here is that you don’t need to go to Hertz or any of the big guys. Go on line and checkout rental agencies at your destination. You’ll get there just as fast and for far less money.